The son of former pro hockey player and current Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has come out publicly as gay--and Burke has come out just as publicly in support of his son.
Buccigross intersperses the narration, which details the family drama of Brendan coming out to his father, with comments from Brendan Burke, who is quoted as remarking, "I had a million good reasons to love and admire Brendan. This news didn’t alter any of them.
"I would prefer Brendan hadn’t decided to discuss this issue in this very public manner," the elder Burke continues. "There will be a great deal of reaction, and I fear a large portion will be negative. But this takes guts, and I admire Brendan greatly, and happily march arm in arm with him on this.
"There are gay men in professional hockey," observes Brian Burke. "We would be fools to think otherwise. And it’s sad that they feel the need to conceal this. I understand why they do so, however.
"I wish this burden would fall on someone else’s shoulders, not Brendan’s," the young man’s father adds. "Pioneers are often misunderstood and mistrusted. But since he wishes to blaze this trail, I stand beside him with an axe! I simply could not be more proud of Brendan than I am, and I love him as much as I admire him."
The elder Burke has expressed the hope that "the day comes, and soon, when this is not a story," but for some players, coaches, and pundits that day is already here. The younger Burke works as student manager for the Miami Redhawks; when he came out to the team, he found nothing but support from the players and from coach Enrico Blasi, who was quoted as saying, "As far as Miami is concerned, we are about the person. I believe we would be accepting and honestly not even think twice about it.
"I think having Brendan as part of our program has been a blessing," Blasi added. "We are much more aware of what you say and how we say it. I am guilty as anyone. We need to be reminded that respect is not a label, but something you earn by the way you live your life."
Commenting on the story, and on Buccigross’ column, a Nov. 24 posting at sports blog Out of Left Field embraced the younger Burke’s experience as more typical now that in years past. "What sort of got buried is that the Miami Redhawks, a college hockey team full of 18- to 22-year-old jocks, accepted Brendan Burke as he is," the posting read. "Perhaps the sports world is more forward-thinking than behind-the-curve sportswriters would have you believe.
"That’s the real story, far as this high-tech redneck is concerned," the blog posting continues. "Ask yourself if you can see that happening with a major junior franchise team. Perhaps it has already. We don’t know, since all the sports columnists who are now compelled to write, ’There are gays in sport, gays in hockey, gays in society. I know of many who have served in front offices and scouting capacities. They shouldn’t have to hide, now or ever,’ have seldom if ever bothered to write that column on a day when it was not convenient or current."
The blog went on to note, "True, you might not have read that 10, 15, 20 years ago in a daily newspaper, so it does represent progress to a limited extent. Don’t miss the point. You should resist putting people in tinier and tinier boxes where if they believe in A (fighting in hockey = good), then they must believe B (gay people = not good).... You should never assume a singularity to anyone’s personality, even though we’re all guilty of it sometimes."